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Current as of January 23, 2020

The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system using a heavily modified version of the C-130 Hercules airframe. The system disrupts enemy command and control communications and limits adversary coordination essential for enemy force management. The Compass Call system employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack (EA) capabilities in support of U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, maritime, and special operations forces. Programmed upgrades have expanded its mission by procuring a secondary EA capability against early warning and acquisition radars. The EC-130H continuously tests new capabilities and tactics to respond to emerging threats and requests from combatant commanders.

All Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The EC-130H is operated by the 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) consisting of two operational squadrons (41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron (ECS)), a formal training unit (the 42nd ECS), the 755th Operations Support Squadron (OSS), and the 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS). The 55th ECG is a tenant unit of the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. Although located at Davis-Monthan, the group reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska

The Compass Call had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982, and reached initial operating capability in 1983. Over its 32 year operational life, the aircraft has provided a powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in multiple military operations including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan.

The 41st ECS, via the 41st Expeditionary ECS (EECS) has been continuously deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM /Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL since 2004. To date, 41st EECS crews have flown more than 45,000 hours during 7,900 combat sorties in these operations. Over the past 10 years, the 43rd EECS has supported operations in SOUTHCOM, CENTCOM, and AFRICOM, and provided over 32,000 hours of EA to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The 43rd EECS recently deactivated 1 Oct 19. The 42nd ECS provides the 41st and 43rd well-trained aviators at a rate of 200 students per year. The 755th OSS provides tactics, training, intelligence, security, and life support to keep the 41st and 43rd ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The 755th AMXS keeps the Compass Call flying by delivering top notch maintenance and upkeep.


The EC-130H aircraft carries a combat crew of 13 people. Four members are responsible for aircraft flight and navigation (aircraft commander, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer), while nine members operate and employ the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo/mission compartment. The mission crew includes the mission crew commander (electronic warfare officer), weapon system officer (electronic warfare officer), mission crew supervisor (an experienced cryptologic linguist), four analysis operators (linguists), one acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician.

The 55th ECG has flown 11,577 combat sorties and nearly 71,000 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict. COMPASS CALL’s adaptability is directly attributed to its spiral upgrade acquisition strategy guided by the Big Safari Program office and Air Force Materiel Command’s 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron based in Waco, Texas.  Combined efforts between these agencies ensure the EC-130H can counter new, emergent communication technology. 


The current configuration of the EC-130H provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability.”  The aircraft allows the Air Force to jam communications, Early Warning/Acquisition radars and navigation systems during tactical air, ground, and maritime operations.  It is highly reconfigurable and permits incorporation of clip-ins that can be employed seamlessly with legacy capabilities. A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capacity. The system was designed to incorporate a “plug-and-play” quick reaction capability aspect, which has historically allowed the program to counter unique “one-off” high profile threats. This flexibility allows the aircraft to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology. It promotes enhanced crew proficiency and effectiveness, maintenance and sustainment with a common fleet configuration, new operator interfaces, increased reliability and better fault detection.

The aircraft’s communication capabilities have been improved with an expansion of satellite communication connectivity compatible with emerging DoD architectures, increased multi-asset coordination nets and upgraded data-link terminals. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments. Furthermore, modifications to the airframe provide improved aircraft performance and survivability.  

The flight deck of a number of the aircraft has been upgraded to a glass cockpit. These upgrades provide the EC-130H with an upgraded civil avionics capability to address obsolescence issues and to comply with Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) requirements. New electronic flight instrument displays have been installed that will display all engine data, hydraulic pressures, flap position and trim tabs for the ailerons, rudder and elevator. A new color weather radar has been installed that includes weather radar, precision ground mapping and wind shear functions. 

The Compass Call integrates into tactical air operations at any level. The versatile and flexible nature of the aircraft and its crew enable the power of electronic combat to be brought to bear in virtually any combat situation.

General Characteristics 
Primary function: Electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter information
Contractors: BAE Systems (prime mission equipment), and L3 Communications (aircraft integration and depot maintenance)
Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprops
Thrust: 4,910 prop shaft horsepower
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (39.7 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.3 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)
Weight: Block 1, 107,000 pounds (48,534 kilograms); Block 2, 103,000 pounds (46,720 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 62,000 pounds (28,182 kilograms)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach 0.52) at 20,000 feet (6,060 meters)
Range:  2,295 miles (3,694 kilometers)
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7.6 kilometers)
Armament:  Non-kinetic energy waveforms
Crew: 13 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, mission crew supervisor, four cryptologic linguists, acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician)
Unit Cost: $165 million
Initial operating capability: 1983
Inventory: Approximately 11